Danone will launch its newly developed, 100 per cent soy dairy brand 'Senjà' in France this February, giving new recognition to dairy alternatives.
Danone announced it would launch four Senjà ultra-fresh yoghurts, enriched with calcium to provide 15 per cent of consumers' recommended daily calcium intake.
The yoghurts will come in four different flavours - pineapple and passion fruit, kiwi and apple, red fruits and chocolate dessert. A Soy and water base makes up 67.5 per cent of the first three and 75.7 per cent of the chocolate dessert product.
If successful, Danone reportedly plans to launch its new brand in other European countries too.
Senjà will be mainly targeted at women, following consumer research by Danone that found more French women than men had tried soy products, although mainly those under the age of 50.
Health and well-being will also be a major theme. Danone said the products, coming as a pack of four 100g pots, would contain no cholesterol and that the soy would aid digestion.
Sugar, however, makes up 12.7 per cent of the chocolate dessert yoghurt - above the 10 per cent per 100g intake guidelines set by the UK's Food Standards Agency. Sugar will constitute 8.5 per cent of the other three yoghurts, although it was unclear how much of this would be added sugar.
The move to launch a 100 per cent fresh soy brand, nevertheless, comes as the market for dairy alternative products, and specifically those that are soy-based, continues to blossom in Europe.
Danone said its own research last year revealed a third of French consumers had tried soy products.
And the group cited a study by AC Nielsen that said the market for 100 per cent, ultra-fresh soy products had grown by 66 per cent between 2002 and 2004; although sales of such products in France are only thought to be worth around €63m.
The launch of Senjà also portrays the growing trend for dairy firms to combat the threat of dairy alternative products by incorporating them into their own portfolios. Danone and General Mills' Yoplait brand already offers yoghurts with added soy.
The European market for non-dairy drinks such as soy milk and juice has grown by a fifth every year since the late 1990s, according to a recent report from Organic Monitor.
Market research group Euromonitor said in its own report last year that soy milk has benefited from rising consumer awareness that soy is high in fibre, protein and minerals, yet low in saturated fat and free of cholesterol.
Isoflavins found in soy have also been promoted as reducing the risk of many diseases, including certain cancers, osteoporosis and heart attacks. Yet, recent studies have suggested soy may raise infertility risk in some men and could severely worsen genetic heart problems in one in 500 people.
Market value for dairy alternatives remains fairly low, despite the rapid growth. Euromonitor valued Western Europe's soy milk market at €375m in 2004, compared to €19.7bn for 'normal' milk.